Academy Sports + Outdoors

September 4, 2021

Right Stuff. Low Price.

Academy Sports + Outdoors is an American sporting goods chain. For 74 years it was a privately held company owned by the Gochman family, until its May 2011 acquisition by KKR. In October 2020 it was listed on the Nasdaq.

Academy Sports’ 259 Retail Locations in the United States

Academy Sports + Outdoors came was founded in 1938 by Arthur Gochman and his business partner. They began their foray into the business world when they purchased Southern Sales, a chain of six San Antonio-based Army-Navy surplus stores that were no longer making any profit. Gochman, who was a practicing attorney in San Antonio, had no experience in the world of business. He had, however, learned a great deal about the surplus retail business from his father, Max Gochman, who had owned a surplus goods outlet in San Antonio and in 1935 still owned and operated a small chain of stores in Austin.

Arthur Gochman bought out his partner in 1973 and changed the company’s business name from Southern Sales to Academy Corp. The Academy name was borrowed from his father’s stores. It came from a now-defunct San Antonio Catholic school named St. Henry’s Academy, across the street from which Max Gochman had opened his first store in the 1930s, selling pre World War II surplus goods. Later, when he moved to Austin, he used the name for his four army-navy surplus stores. Being that many University of Texas students and graduates lived in the Houston area and were familiar with the Austin stores, Max Gochman permitted his son to use the name, knowing that it would help his son’s business. In 1978, Arthur Gochman gave up his law practice and moved to Houston to take over control of the company and complete the overhaul of its basic merchandising policies.

The chain grew from eight stores in 1980 to 12 in 1985 and by 1990 the company was selling more cowboy boots than any other chain in the United States.

By the end of the 1980s Academy sold more state fishing licenses than its competitors.

In the1990s, Academy had reached a period of rapid expansion, with a chain of 34 stores. In 1995 Academy opened its first stores outside of Texas, with one in Lafayette, Louisiana, and another in Edmond, Oklahoma. That said, Texas remains the hub of the company’s business, with almost half of its stores as well as its headquarters and distribution centre located in the Houston area.

Using market analysis to its advantage, Academy chose “hot market” locations for their new stores and, as a result, has never had to close one due to poor sales.

In 1995 Arthur’s son, David Gochman, joined Academy on a full-time basis. By that time his father, who was then 65 years old, had built Academy into a $350 million retail chain. He was ready to turn control of the business over to his 30-year-old son. David Gochman became vice-president of store operations and general counsel and in the following year, he succeeded his father as Academy’s chairman, president, and CEO.

In 1999, Academy had 35 stores in Texas, three in Oklahoma, two in Alabama, three in Louisiana, and one in Florida. Most of these were superstores, ranging from 35,000 to 100,000 square feet in size.

In 2011, Academy Sports + Outdoors was acquired by KKR which, just a few months later, launched an e-commerce store. Soon after, it introduced the first company-branded credit card. In 2019, the first “next-gen” store opened in Richmond, Texas.

In October 2020, Academy launched became a public company listed on the Nasdaq with the ticker symbol ASO. It then laid out a plan that called for eight to ten stores per year starting in 2022. After going public, it laid out a plan to launch eight to 10 new stores per year starting in 2022. Shares, which originally stood below $13, rose to $40 by June 2021. After its first public year, Academy debuted on the Fortune 500 list of 2021.

Gloria Sauvé
Communications and Marketing

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